Tag Archives: Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time

June 19, 2020


The Liturgical Year. Calendars are divided into sections. For example, the calendar year is divided into months, a month is divided into weeks, a week is divided into days, and a day is divided into hours. The liturgical year is divided into six sections: Advent, Christmas, early Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, and late Ordinary Time.

Two Divisions. Early Ordinary Time begins on the Monday after the Baptism of the Lord and continues until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Late Ordinary Time begins on the Monday after Pentecost and continues until the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent.

“Jesus invites us to come to him,” St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Cottonwood, Minnesota. Father Michael Van Sloun

Duration. The usual length of early and late Ordinary Time together is thirty-four weeks, although occasionally it is thirty-three weeks.

The “Missing” Sundays. There is no First Sunday of Ordinary Time because the Sunday of the first week belongs to the Christmas Season and it begins on a Monday. The first two Sundays after Pentecost are doctrinal feasts, the Most Holy Trinity and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, and even though they belong to Ordinary Time, they are not numbered Sundays.

The Word “Ordinary.” The liturgical meaning of the word “ordinary” is very different from its use in usual conversation. Ordinary means normal, unexceptional, or regular, and sometimes it carries the notion of boring, dull, or monotonous. Ordinary Time is none of these. It is derived from the Latin words ordinatim, something arranged in good order, and ordo, a series or a row of things, a lineup. In a liturgical sense, Ordinary Time is well-ordered time.

A Well-Ordered Journey. The Sundays of Ordinary Time are a well-ordered journey through one of the three gospels. It follows the principle of lectio continua, a liturgical term for a continuous reading of a book of the Bible, not in its entirety, but a selection of the most important or distinctive passages, proceeding chapter by chapter, week by week, throughout the course of the liturgical season. In Year A the journey is through the Gospel of Matthew, in Year B, Mark, and in Year C, Luke. The Gospel of John does not have its own year, but rather is inserted into the other three cycles at various places, particularly in the Easter Season.

Point of Emphasis. Each liturgical season has a special focus, Advent on the coming of Christ, Christmas on the birth of Christ, Lent on penance and the Easter sacraments, and Easter on the Resurrection. The focus of Ordinary Time is discipleship, how to live the Christian faith, week by week, with deeper faith and greater conviction, and how to apply the gospel to daily living.

A Symbolic Color. Green is the liturgical color for Ordinary Time, and it has rich symbolic meaning. Leaves are green. It represents life, growth, and increase, and as the year goes on, a person’s spiritual life is to be alive, vibrant, and developing. It also represents hope. When a seed is placed in the ground, the hope is that it will sprout; when it sprouts, the hope is that it will grow; and when it grows, the hope is that it will bear fruit. The hope is that our faith will sprout, grow robustly, and bear much fruit. It also represents eternity. Coniferous trees are green all year long, their needles are green forever, so green pine trees represent eternal life. The objective of Ordinary Time is everlasting life in heaven with almighty God.

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What’s special about Ordinary Time?

June 27, 2011


Green is the color for Ordinary Time because it symbolizes hope.

After Easter and Pentecost, it’s hard to get excited about the start of Ordinary Time. Especially on those summer Sundays when many parishioners are at the lake, the choir isn’t singing, and the monochromatic green of the altar plants matches the vestments the priest will be wearing every Sunday for months.

It sounds pretty … ordinary. But I can’t believe God would want us to consider almost two thirds of the year routine and humdrum.

The Church looks at Ordinary Time this way:  “Apart from those seasons having their own distinctive character, thirty-three or thirty-four weeks remain in the yearly cycle that do not celebrate a specific aspect of the mystery of Christ. Rather, especially on the Sundays, they are devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects. This period is known as Ordinary Time.”

Contemplating the “mystery of Christ in all its aspects” doesn’t sound uneventful. The Latin root of the word ordinary, ordinalis, means “showing order, denoting an order of succession.” Ordinary Time really has to do with the fact that the weeks of this liturgical season are numbered with ordinal numbers (first, second, third) rather than cardinal numbers (one, two three).

Divided into two parts, Ordinary Time is one season that lasts 33 or 34 weeks, depending on how the movable feasts including the Baptism of the Lord and Easter affect the calendar. It’s most common to have 33 weeks of Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time starts on the evening of the Sunday following January 6 and continues until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday inclusive. It starts again on the Monday after Pentecost and ends before Evening Prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent.

We don’t hear much about the First Sunday of Ordinary Time because it starts with Evening Prayer on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, while the Masses of the day are still part of the Christmas season. So the first part of that Sunday is part of the Christmas season and the second part is Ordinary Time. The following Sunday is the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Unlike Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter which all have pretty clear scriptural themes, Ordinary Time readings present the continuous story of Jesus’ life and work as it is proclaimed in the Gospels of either Matthew, Mark or Luke. John’s Gospel is usually read during the other seasons.

Maybe it’s good that Ordinary Time is a little more low key than the other seasons so we can experience different types of liturgical terrain. The Catechism shows that there is radiance even in what seems to be ordinary:

“Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance. Gradually, on either side of this source, the year is transfigured by the liturgy. It really is a “year of the Lord’s favor.” The economy of salvation is at work within the framework of time, but since its fulfillment in the Passover of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the culmination of history is anticipated “as a foretaste,” and the kingdom of God enters into our time.” (CCC 1168)

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